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Published On: Mon, Sep 22nd, 2014

Pervasive godfathers, absent godmothers

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By Toyosi Akerele

I’m afraid Nigerian women are not doing the same aside from only a handful, and forgive me, you may not agree but I write from a standpoint of an informed young woman who has stayed involved and carefully observed this process and I am ready and willing to debate this position.

I am an emerging Nigerian Leader and Enterprise Powerhouse {shebi we were taught to confess positive abi, so shout amen if you dream that for yourself or your daughter}. I wasn’t born with accomplishments around my neck and having lived 3 decades on earth and in Nigeria, I feel grateful for a few achievements here and there. I owe my education through school, quality upbringing, a strong personal value orientation of humility, respect and the indomitable will to achieve remarkable success to my mother. I owe my education through life and every other thing I have become to other well spirited Nigerian women – women who are comfortable in their own skin and do not feel threatened by a young woman with zeal and determination.

I am a result of their chastisements, love and deep commitment to replicate themselves and hand down greatness in practical terms to myself and other young Women. Beyond those, their Lives are exemplary and I am continually energized that despite the crippling stereotypes against Women in Africa, it is possible to have it all – Be successful in Business or Career, be recognized as a Leading Light across the world and still have a happy husband and children to cuddle up to after a hard day’s Job.

I wonder how many more accomplished women under 35 Nigeria can produce in the coming years if the women Leaders in Government, Private Sector, Civil Society etc will make a modicum of investment in some young girl/ woman somewhere. It takes no skin off your nose Ma and it doesn’t diminish you in any manner whatsoever. At 30, I am mentoring girls who are progressing sporadically, their successes may beat mine in a few years to come and I feel happy and the better for it. Gbemisola Osadua, now 23, worked directly with me as an Intern in an Organization I founded 7years ago.

Today, and I state this with all sense of humility and modesty, under my tutelage, she has become one force to reckon with in our generation; the first female to ever run as President of Students’ Union Government of the University of Ibadan. At that miniature level of student politics, Gbemi secured more support and buy in from more boys than Girls. She did not win but her male counterparts remain in absolute awe of her till date and I organized a victory party for her after their elections. I stayed on the phone with her many hours as she sobbed and taught and encouraged her to assume the Martin Luther King position of a forerunner who may not clinch the ultimate prize but would have inspired others to go for the jugular.

Today, Gbemisola is a final year Law Student and now Chairperson of the Euro Africa Youth Parliament House Committee on Constitutional Policy in Germany. An indefatigable leader, under her watch and mentoring, a Girl, Ifeoluwa Egunjobi contested for the position of the Speaker of the Students Parliament in UI and WON. More Girls in UI as a result of Gbemisola’s courage, responsibility, ambition and intellect now believe that Women who have the capacity and competence can lead effectively especially when their fellow women give of themselves and take ownership of the aspirations of one another.

Gbemi is one of the many Girls I mentor and while I do not want to seem responsible for her various exploits, I stay convinced that more Nigerian women must take time to listen to and invest their time, resources, money, network of friends and associates in the younger women. Designer Bags, Fancy Phones, Social Cliques and Classes are exciting but they are not sustainable. The rate at which our generation has embraced independence, entrepreneurship and leadership, it will be difficult to set us aside. The world is changing, the worm will turn and we are the ones who will drive society.

You are in your 40s or 50s today, Minister for ABC or D, MD of that Company or the other, Wife of the Governor of State A, General Manager or HOD of Department Q, one day, you’ll be just a memory for some People so please do your best to be a good one because there is a place called TOMORROW when the younger woman you despised few years ago will now be the one occupying the position you currently have.It will be a shame that she may never make reference to you, you may never touch her life and those of many others, there will be a new Louis Vuitton or Chanel Bag in vogue, the one you had 15 years ago would be stale, there would be several new models of your Toyota Prado SUV, you won’t be invited to deliver speeches at many Events anymore as before because a new Set of successful women with inspiring fresh stories would have emerged, that young reporter won’t consider you for an Interview because you treated her with contempt the last time she came close so you also rarely or never get into the Newspapers.

Life would have happened to you. You won’t be doling out contracts anymore so our People would have moved on to the next one, hence your phone wouldn’t ring as much as it used to so please pick our phone calls now. And guess what, if money and influence doesn’t finish, one still cannot live forever. Sometimes the more flash, the less the substances.You can start now. You can build a Legacy. An Army, a circle of young, strong women into whom you pour yourself often, to whom you make yourself accessible; sometimes it’s not your money we want, a simple line of encouragement or guide on ways to run a business or advice on how to deal with sexual harassment at work or a word of prayer can change the world. You may give a book sometimes. You can also give money to those who need it if you have some extra cash. I understand not all the young woman are ready to learn and give honour and I believe in service and respecting my elders. Please don’t give up on them and don’t use them as a yardstick to judge all of us. Please don’t spoon feed us too. Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. And if you cannot give anything, just be kind. Smile. {laughs}. Let’s do it for each other. It’s called Collective Emancipation.

If and when you bequeath a Legacy of Powerful and successful Women who sidestepped their challenges and fulfilled their destinies because you gave what other women were too afraid or too arrogant to give, then you will go to heaven like Elijah. Without seeing death.

 

Ms. Toyosi Akerele, a young female leader, is chief executive at the Rise Group Units, a network of youth empowerment initiatives.  Twitter: @toyosirise E: toyosirise@risenetworks.org

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